Sotheby's Halts Sale of Looted Nigerian Mask

Protests, complaints cause withdrawal of $7M piece
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2010 8:40 AM CST
An elaborate 16th century ivory mask from Benin City, Nigeria, circa 1930. This is not the mask in question.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Sotheby's has canceled the planned auction of a 16th-century ivory mask from West Africa after online protesters and the Nigerian government complained that the precious artifact had been looted from the country by British troops, reports the Independent. The mask, believed to have been worn by the king of Benin on ceremonial occasions, was taken by British forces in an 1897 attack: Troops looted the city and deposed the king after local forces massacred a British-led force.

The mask ended up in the hands of Lt. Col. Sir Henry Lionel Galway, and was due to be sold by his descendants for as much as $7 million in February. It has been "withdrawn from sale at the request of the consignors," says Sotheby's. The auction house had called the mask "among the most iconic works of art to have been created in Africa."

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